Differences in suicide between the old and the oldest old

Annette Erlangsen, Unni Bille-Brahe, Bernard Jeune

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Objectives. The purpose of our study is to examine suicide trends among the old (65-79 years) and oldest old (80+ years). Methods. All persons aged 50 or older who committed suicide in Denmark during 1972-1998 are included in the analysis. Suicide trends are analyzed by sex, age, civil status, and methods. Age, period, and cohort effects are examined graphically. Results. In all, 17,729 persons (10,479 men and 7,250 women) committed suicide. During the study period, the suicide trends among the middle-aged and the old adults decreased. The trend among the oldest old, by contrast, remained stable. Marriage ceases to have a preventive effect among the oldest old. The oldest old tend to use more determined suicide methods. Discussion. Distinct differences in suicide mortality between the old and the oldest old were found. The suicide trend of the oldest old does not reflect the recent improvements found in their overall mortality. Interestingly, it seems that the preventive effect of marriage seems to be ceasing with increasing age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S314-S322
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series B Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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